History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2005: Q.1 (a)

History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2005: Q.1 (a)

Q.1 (a) “Upon the whole, then, I conclude that the treaty of Bassein was wise, just and a politic measure.” Comment.


The Treaty of Bassein was concluded in 1802 between the British East India Company and the Peshwa Baji Rao II, when Peshva Baji Rao II fled to British protection after having been defeated by Holkar.
As per the treaty, Peshwa agreed to receive from the company a regular army to be stationed in Poona. Peshwa had to surrender territories yielding 26 lakhs of rupees apart from surrendering Surat. The Peshwa had to accept the company’s arbitration in all differences between him and the other states.

This treaty was an important landmark in the history of British paramountcy in India. It put and end to the Maratha independence and gave the Company unquestionable supremacy over Maratha state.

The treaty was not acceptable to leading Maratha chiefs and hence followed by 2nd Anglo-Maratha war (1803 – 1806).

Lord Castlereagh, the President of the Board of Control, criticized the treaty by saying that it appeared “hopeless to govern the Maratha Empire through a feeble and perhaps disaffected Peshwa”. The treaty which provided for the Peshwa’s acceptance of the British arbitrations in his disputes with other powers was according to Cast­lereagh fraught with the danger of involving the English in the end­less and complicated distractions of the turbulent of Maratha Empire.

Major General Arthur Wellesley while replying to the criticism of the political wisdom of the treaty of Bassein, called the treaty as wise, just and politic measure. He gave the following reasons for it:

(1) The probability existed that arrangements under the treaty would be carried into execution without a war and that it would secure the permanent peace of India.

(2) The treaty was the most efficient mean of opposing the Maratha Confederacy with success.

(3) By camping the company’s subsidiary troops at Poona the Company got a very advantageous position in case of war with the Marathas or any other rivals. This increased British Army offensive capability.

(4) If it should be contended that the British government ought to have expected, as a consequence of the treaty, war with the confederacy which happened in 1803, with the military and political advantages they acquired by the treaty of Bassein, they had nothing to fear from that confederacy; and that if they had not concluded the treaty of Bassein they would in a few months afterwards have been involved in a war with the more powerful Maratha Confederacy, much increased in strength and resources, and possessing superior advantages, while those of the Company, in every point of view, would have been diminished.

Without treaty, Maratha Confederacy would have more united and strong but British would have been at several disadvantages such as: lack of means and resources, lack of support from Peshwa.

But the major diadvantage would have been the position for British armies which the treaty of Bassein gave them. By adopting this position in 1803 War with Maratha Comfederacy, the armies were enabled immediately to render offensive operations of a war which had been undertaken solely for defence. In the war which must have been expected if the treaty of Bassein had not been concluded, the operations must have been defensive upon a frontier extending above a thousand miles.

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